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Citrus Growers, Researchers Looking for Ways to Stop Spread of Bacteria

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Posted: Nov 27, 2012 12:03 PM

Updated: Nov 27, 2012 12:31 PM

SAN JUAN - Citrus growers and researchers are searching for ways to stop the spread of harmful bacteria. The citrus industry provides thousands of jobs in the Rio Grande Valley.

Dr. John Da Graca, the director of Texas A&M Kingsville's Citrus Center, explained the bacteria can cause trees to die, and it can also change the shape, color and taste of the citrus fruit.

Last year, an area of San Juan was quarantined, after trees infected with the bacteria were discovered. That area remains quarantined.

The bacteria is carried by the Asian citrus psyllid, a bug that eats sugar from citrus leaves. It's dormant in the cooler months. Growers want to kill off as many of the bugs as they can before the spring.

Last week, growers voluntarily sprayed their crops. That'll continue until next week.

Researchers are also looking for different ways to combat the bugs. Dr. Da Graca said one researcher is looking at using wasps to kill off the psyllids. Others are in the early stages of trying to modify the trees to develop a resistance to the bacteria.

Dr. Da Graca said they're still testing thousands of samples of trees from all over the Valley and state for the bacteria. They've found psyllids with the bacteria, but no new infected areas have been found since the beginning of the year.

Topics: San juan, citrus, growers, bacteria, Asian citrus psyllid

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